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J Anim Sci. 2005 Apr;83(4):871-8.

High mineral and vitamin E intake by pregnant ewes lowers colostral immunoglobulin G absorption by the lamb.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, University College Dublin, Newcastle, Ireland.


A 2 x 2 factorial arrangement of treatments with 78 mature ewes was used to evaluate the effects of supplementing the pregnant ewe's diet with high levels of minerals and vitamin E on immunoglobulin G (IgG) absorption by the lamb and whether any altered efficacy of IgG absorption was due to the colostrum or to the lamb. The ewes were estrus-synchronized in October and housed in wk 10 of gestation. In the final 7 wk of gestation, a grass silage-based diet, offered ad libitum, was supplemented with 500 g of a 19% CP concentrate, and from 1 wk later until lambing, half the ewes was offered 48 g of a mineral/vitamin supplement containing 6.5 g of Ca, 4.9 g of P, 5.9 g of Mg, 4.0 g of Na, 790 mg of Zn, 3.5 mg of Se, 40 mg of I, 200 mg of Mn, 20 mg of Co, and 40 IU of vitamin E. At birth, the lambs were allocated to one of four treatments in a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement, with lamb origin and colostrum origin as the two factors. The lambs born to ewes not offered the mineral supplement were fed colostrum obtained from their own dams or from ewes in the mineral-supplemented treatment, whereas lambs born to ewes given supplemental minerals were fed colostrum obtained either from their dams or from ewes in the control treatment. The ewes were milked at 1, 10, and 18 h postpartum and the lambs were fed using a stomach tube. A 5-mL blood sample was taken from each lamb at 24 h postpartum for IgG analysis. The level of fecal adhesion to the upper tail/rump area of the lamb was subjectively scored at 72 h postpartum. There was no difference in gestation length, lamb birth weight, colostrum yield, or IgG production (P = 0.16 to 0.82). When ewes were fed supplemental minerals, the serum IgG content of the progeny was lower than in their control counterparts (6.8 vs. 16.1 g/L; P < 0.001), regardless of whether the lamb received colostrum from ewes with or without access to supplementary minerals. The difference in serum IgG concentrations at 24 h postpartum was a direct reflection of a compromised efficiency in IgG absorption. The progeny of ewes with access to minerals had higher (P < 0.05) levels of fecal adhesion, which was not related to the origin of the colostrum, indicating altered digestive function in these lambs. We conclude, using the sheep as a model, that high mineral intakes in late pregnancy not only lower serum IgG concentrations in the lamb, but also that high mineral intakes result in the neonate being preprogrammed at birth so that it is born with a compromised ability to absorb colostral IgG.

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